Wagging Goodbye

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When my husband and I started dating, I was a single mother. A Yorkshire terrier puppy named Wharton had stolen my heart just two months prior.

In the midst of graduate school and multiple jobs, I think owning a dog gave me permission to be maternal. At 22, I was nowhere near ready to have children.

But I liked to think that one day it still might happen. A dog, I believed, would give me practice.

And, it’s true, I endured all of the frustrating stages required of little creatures.

Bladder control (often in the wee hours of morning).

Destruction of property.

Boundaries.

If I’m honest, I think my dog represented something even deeper: my fear of being alone.

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You Can Do This

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“You can do this.” It’s become a mantra in our relationship.

First, it was sweet encouragement my husband and I whispered to one another during our tenure in graduate school. Eventually, we walked across the stage – just minutes apart.

Next, it was yelled by my husband over intense labor pains. Truthfully, I thought our children might be stuck forever. Eventually, two little people entered the world.

And, just this weekend, I found myself mentally replaying the words.

For the first time, we trusted a non-grandparent caregiver to put both children to bed.

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We’ve forgotten how to use our hands

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My father’s hands were always calloused – filthy from the day’s work. His meal ticket wasn’t a college degree but back-breaking labor. In all of my life, I have never seen anyone work harder.

Which is why he readily accepts projects during visits to our home. This past December he removed rotten wood and adhesive from our front steps and completely replaced our laundry room flooring. In the process, he ruined a well-used long-sleeved T-shirt with Virginia Tech, my alma mater, written across it.

My father’s four-year plan ended prematurely, and he didn’t finish college.

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Why You’ll Become That Parent

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You know, the parent who annoys you before you have children…or before you have as many kids as they do. In your eyes, they get it all wrong.

How could they do that?

Why don’t they just do this?

I’ll never…

For myself, I can chase personal guilt back to an observation of “failed” discipline at a nice restaurant early in my first pregnancy. The scene was Silicon Valley, and the parents were older (a cultural norm in the Bay Area). They have no control, I remember thinking to myself. Their unwillingness to face the little giant in the high chair really got under my skin. Before you have children, you can really believe you have all the answers.

But if you are a parent long enough, a realization will stop you in your tracks. In my case, I had to accept an uncomfortable reality: my kids are their own people. They won’t always behave at dinner – no matter how much money or effort you expend.

And, in due time, I did that thing I said I never would.

I learned to let little things go.

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A View from the Bottom Bunk

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Don’t be afraid of what you don’t understand.

Easier said than done, of course, but this is my husband and I’s go-to advice for our three-year-old son when we know storms are imminent.

Two nights ago, however, we were no match for the incessant thunder and lightning.

At approximately 3:45 a.m. we awoke to my son’s tearful pleas: “Mommy! Daddy!” There was something different in my son’s voice this time – a blend of emerging maturity and raw fear. He sensed what was happening, yet couldn’t prevent himself from the human desire for certainty…and control.

I led my oldest child down the ladder as Mother Nature illuminated his small room with urgent pulses of white. The night’s antidote would be snuggles with Momma in the bottom bunk.

And, in that 10-minute embrace, shadows weren’t the only images that danced across his walls.

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A Christmas Present

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As a mother, I often feel like I am on the front lines of culture wars. This year I didn’t go Black Friday shopping. But two days later, I was forced to brave Walmart for milk (no blizzard pending).

The scene was so quiet, so serene, and the Christmas aisle was like my own pine-scented paradise. Except I was all alone. There was no warmth.

The whole endeavor to find an advent calendar was fruitless. In fact, I found nothing among the Christmas items but gift-related products. Wrapping paper, bows, gift tags, and tape.

Isn’t Christmas about spending time together?

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